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The Van Riper Gambit: Iran Scores Against Expensive High-Tech US Gadgetry

Iran has offered what it said was the wreckage of a US military (unmanned spy) plane launched from a military base in the United Arab Emirates (June 2019). PHOTO: Reuters

‘If you lead with the technology, I think you’re bound to make mistakes.’ — Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper

It’s apparent that the folks on Iran’s war staff are well versed in Trumpian World Wide Wrestling Federation psychodrama and the perverse American cartoon-world psyche. Trump engaged in more threats and then back-peddled after Iran scored a coup of downing a $220 million MQ-4C high-tech drone.

Trump then claimed the Iranian action was unintentional, to which Iran promptly corrected that stating that it was unapologetically intentional. Furthermore, Iran suggested it could have easily taken down a manned P-8 military aircraft spy plane ($256 million price tag) as well, but deferred.

Iranian forces claimed they used a version of the Buk M1 road-mobile SAM to shoot down the drone. The IRGC also possesses Russian-made S-300 air-defense systems. Iran announced that it had a “domestically made” system with the same capabilities as the S-300.

Then, Donnie boy downplays the bad omens of the MQ-4C loss and left the U.S. open by saying expensive weaponry isn’t worth 150 Iranian lives that would be lost in the planned retaliation. If so Iran can play that game indefinitely, as the U.S. has plenty of high-cost military-industrial complex gadgetry in the theater. Burning through billions of vanity weaponry strikes us as losing proposition.

Europe didn’t condemn Iran either. No one did. Only the U.S. And that silence is deafening as warmongers Pompeo, Bolton and Haspel again overextend themselves.

Maybe it’s all just a big coinkydink, but the suppressed news of Philadelphia’s refinery explosion on Friday strikes us as most curious. Just how difficult is sabotage of this type, and who could accurately I.D. the culprits? Might not even be Iranian. Once again, the American paper tiger is laid bare.

Iran has had 40 years to develop low-tech asymmetric warfare to use against a cartoon world country that has wasted hundreds of billions on gadgetry.

Currently, U.S. cruise missiles are among the most expensive of single-use weapons, up to several million dollars apiece. One consequence of this is that its users face difficult choices in target allocation, to avoid expending the missiles on targets of low value. For instance, during the 2001 strikes on Afghanistan, the United States attacked targets of very low monetary value with cruise missiles, which led many to question the efficiency of the weapon.

On April 6, 2017, 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched targeting Shayrat Airbase near Homs, in Syria. An independent bomb damage assessment conducted by ImageSat International counted hits on 44 targets, with some targets being hit by more than one missile; these figures were determined using satellite images of the airbase 10 hours after the strike. However, the Russian defense ministry contends that the combat effectiveness of the attack was “extremely low”; only 23 missiles hit the base destroying six aircraft.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the country’s development of ballistic missile technology had changed “the balance of power” in the region.

According to Salami, the Revolutionary Guards began tests using ballistic missiles as “a way to end the story of American aircraft carriers in the area” some 12 years ago.

The U.S. is likely to give its aircraft carriers a wide berth. The most effective weapon Iran has is the sea mine, which will choke off the Persian Gulf. Iran has 15,000, and they have low-tech but effective price tags at $25,000 a pop. Any clearing of these mines will be risky and expensive. A number of U.S. ships have been damaged by mines in past regional conflicts.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) focuses more on smaller, fast-moving, heavily armed ships for an anti-access, area-denial role in the inner Persian Gulf against Iran’s neighbors and the United States. The IRGCN also controls Iran’s shore-based anti-ship missiles.

In 2002, Marine Gen. Paul Van Riper led an Iran-like Red Team in a U.S. military exercise called the Millennium Challenge 2002. Van Riper launched a preemptive “swarm strike” against an approaching U.S. amphibious force using a huge anti-ship cruise missile barrage that over-saturated their sophisticated Aegis air defense systems. This was combined with a swarming attack by fast boats. His attack sank 16 ships and killed 20,000 Blue Team personnel.

Van Riper apparently hadn’t understood that he was meant to lose the war game in order to validate U.S. military doctrine, so the exercise was promptly rebooted to have the “right” outcome. My speculation is logical, the neocon psychopaths running the U.S. war biz have exposed themselves and with supreme hubris ignored Van Riper’s lessons on their obsolete doctrine. The general has said as much.

Van Riper discussed ultimatums and threats in his Nova interview. 

“What advantage is there for Red to wait for Blue to strike?” There was none. And that lead to the natural conclusion that if they’re coming, and we can’t persuade them not to diplomatically, then we will strike.

As I looked at an ultimatum that gave me less than 24 hours to respond to what literally was a surrender document, it was clear to me that there was no advantage in any of this diplomacy. I was very surprised that the Joint Forces Command personnel who had argued for using all of the elements of national power—the economic, the diplomatic, the political information—in some sort of coherent fashion, really came at Red with a blunt military instrument. So it was clear to me that this was not going to be negotiated, this was going to be a fight. And if it was going to be a fight, I was going to get in the first blow.

Indeed, besides the effective sea mines, Mad Max-style tactics of barreling towards enemies at maximum speed in swarms of over-gunned open-topped motor vehicles seems outlandish, it has a certain logic for Iran. The small and affordable boats have low radar signatures, which combined with speed, would significantly reduce their target’s reaction time. More importantly, should the U.S. approach Persian shores, their sheer numbers could overwhelm the expensive defensive systems on board U.S. warships.

A fight in someone else’s bathtub

From the IRGCN’s standpoint and replicating Van Riper doctrine, the U.S. Navy’s advanced warships bristling with missiles are the Death Star, and its swarms of fast boats the maneuverable fighters capable overwhelming advanced defenses to deal a lethal blow.

The Seraj-1 fast attack craft was built on the Bladerunner design and is known for its stability, high mobility and strength. The newest version has large-caliber armaments, especially the 107-mm rocket launcher on the bridge and the DShKM mounted on the front. It can hit speeds of 90-100 knots (Seraj-2, Seraj-3) with a low silhouette. Iran has 30,000 of these equipped with short-range anti-ship missiles that approach at low altitude.

Iran also possesses thousands of small hard to detect swarm drones that can land quick hard punches. Expending high tech cruise missiles trying to hit these on the ground is a fine proposition and trade off for Iran.

Iran has imported Chinese C802 Silkworm missiles with a strike range of 120 miles, as well as reverse-engineered its own domestic Noor cruise missile and began working on a 200-mile range Ghadir ASCM. And the Persian Gulf ranges in width of only between 35 to 212 miles.

7 Comments on The Van Riper Gambit: Iran Scores Against Expensive High-Tech US Gadgetry

  1. Whose side are you on? Iran is no saint. And worse I suspect this author is siding with Iran because they are anti Israel. Satan also hates the Jews and since Egypt has been trying to wipe them off the earth. So whose side are you on.

    • America’s Air Force did a fine job in Butte county, California last November. 50,000 people were burned out of their homes by Goldfein’s Burning Machine, essentially a giant orbiting flamethrower. The Iranians have no defense against this thing, anymore than Californians do.

  2. It seems likely the US approach last week was a psyop – soften the world up to the idea that attacking Iran is imminent then ‘pull back at last minute’. Publicize hacking into Iran ‘cyber warfare’ etc) as a weakening move that won’t produce any obvious deaths that might be bad publicity.
    Given the incredible levels of panopticon surveillance the Chinese and US have – Gorgon Stare etc- it seems likely this will be a very technical war. Manned aircraft are arguably obsolete at this point in history…

    • What is really scary is no one knows for sure how it would turn out for everyone if America is goaded into attacking Iran. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.

  3. Great article with many good observations. A couple more quick points; The MQ-C4 was a max stealth aircraft, proving stealth technology is pretty much a waste of money and can be defeated. The drone was operating in stealth mode and was shot down in the dead of night; This means the F-35 and F-22 would likely suffer the same fate. These two war birds are basically “hanger queens”, requiring many hours of maintenance for each hour of flight time. To fight a real war with real enemies you need aircraft capable of 2 to 3 sorties a day requiring little maintenance(can you say Russia?)

    Jim Stone has what I feel is the best take on the shoot down: http://82.221.129.208/.wh7.html

    Also of great interest, how Americas air force would not be able to fight any kind of protracted war: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/03/f-35-replacement-f-45-mustang-ii-fighter-simple-lightweight/

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